A treacherous walk for the elderly, visually-impaired

For the two disadvantaged categories, crossing the road is hazardous

Crossing the road in Hyderabad is no cakewalk and every pedestrian would vouch for that. More often than not, they have to walk for fairly long distances to find a gap in road medians. When they get there, they must hold their breath. With a raised palm and prayer on their lips, they urge motorists to slow down to be able to cross over to the other side.

Now, imagine if one has to do this blind-folded or when one is bone tired even as vehicles continue to zoom past them. What sounds like a near-impossible task for regular pedestrians is an everyday reality for the visually-impaired and the elderly.

Barring emergency situations, people belonging to the two categories refrain from crossing the main roads without help. In fact, rather than risking their lives, they often depend on online aggregator services. Many senior citizens shell out ₹30 or more to have commercial vehicle drivers pick them up just to take a U-turn and drop them on the other side of the road.

The Hindu followed a few people with visual impairment trying to cross the roads and found that they were often unable to locate the median gap, and ended up walking past it. A few onlookers had to guide them back to the gap. In a few instances, they treacherously walked alongside medians with fast-moving vehicles nearing them until they found the gap. Luckily for them, traffic police personnel and other pedestrians volunteered to help them cross the road or carriageway.

“If we return home safe from office, school or colleges, we consider it a good day. People do not understand we have visual impairment or are blind if we don’t have a cane in hand. We cross roads believing that people will slow down their vehicles after seeing it,” says a visually-impaired M. Ganga Ram, chairman of an NGO called Friendly Environment for The Disabled.

Missing pavements

Members of the NGO say that either pavements are missing or occupied by shopkeepers which forces them to walk on road, and that scares them.

Hostel mates from Saroornagar, first year degree student T. Mamatha, who has partial vision, and Intermediate student A. Mounika, who is blind, detailed the challenges faced in walking or crossing carriageways. “I have to reach Karmanghat to catch a bus to my college in Ibrahimpatnam. Share autorickshaws charge ₹20 to ₹30 for the two-km ride. So, we choose to walk with our cane and have to cross the road. If we don’t find help, we have no option but to rely on ourselves. At times, for example, during examinations, we hire bikes or cabs so that we don’t lose time in crossing the road,” says Ms. Mamatha

People in the city have been witnessing unexpected rains in Hyderabad which led to water gushing down main roads. Recalling one such situation, L. Gopal Rao, who is blind, said that he had to wait under a bus shelter for nearly three hours, waiting for help.

For senior citizens with orthopaedic problems, it becomes perilous to walk and they often need help in crossing carriageways. President of Association of Senior Citizens of Hyderabad, P. Vyasamoorthy said because of medians, one has to walk a long distance and take a ‘U’ turn to reach the opposite side of road. “One has to cross at his own risk, if he/she chooses to jump over median. A friend used to hire an autorickshaw just to get to the other side safely,” said Dr Vyasamoorthy.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Anil Kumar said whenever they notice that a gap in median is required, they write to the GHMC, Hyderabad Road Development Corporation Ltd. or the Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd., depending on whose jurisdiction it falls under. “We have recommended installation of pedestrian signals at 50 places in Hyderabad,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 9:27:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/a-treacherous-walk-for-the-elderly-visually-impaired/article29816748.ece

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